Hero syndrome

The hero syndrome is a phenomenon affecting people who seek heroism or recognition, usually by creating a situation which they can resolve. This can include unlawful acts, such as arson. The phenomenon has been noted to affect civil servants, such as firefighters, nurses, police officers, security guards and politicians.

People with hero syndrome generally cause an accident or disaster with the intention of then coming in to render aid, and become the 'hero'. The reasons for this often vary. The perpetrator may be trying to validate their own self-worth, or be seen as brave by others. In this way, hero syndrome is comparable to Munchausen syndrome. For example, an arsonist may start a house fire so they can rescue the people inside, in an attempt to garner the respect and gratitude of the victims and any potential spectators, or a doctor may induce a heart attack in a patient so they can then 'save' them.

Acts linked with hero syndrome are not to be confused with acts of malice, which is primarily intended for the sake of doing harm. In a federal study of more than 75 firefighter arsonists, the most common reason cited for starting the fire was simply the excitement of putting it out, not to cause harm or exact revenge.[1]


A screening method has been developed, based on the case that those who commit the acts are generally young and are looking for an opportunity to prove or flaunt their bravery. However, there are no formal scientific studies on the hero syndrome.[1]

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  1. ^ a b Cave, Damien (2004-08-02). "Experts Say 'Hero Syndrome' Not Common Among Police". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-13.